Papua deal is good for Melanesia

Editorial, Normal

The National, Wednesday May 13th, 2015

 INDONESIAN President Joko Widodo completed a two-day inaugural visit to Papua New Guinea yesterday.

Widodo and wife Iriana arrived in Port Moresby on Monday after a visit to Indonesia’s Papuan provinces.

The PNG visit was an eye-opener for the new leader of our largest neighbour and follows on from Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s state visit to Indonesia in 2013.

During a State dinner at Parliament House on Monday night, Widodo emphasised the need for cordial relations between the two countries. 

“We have lived together, side by side, share the same land mass, and we share the same hope. Our shared culture, shared tradition and shared values between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea have paired us as brothers. Papua New Guinea provides an important link between Indonesia and the Pacific region.”

He added: “Papua New Guinea and Indonesia will help forge cooperation and friendship among Melanesian countries in the region.”

As expected, O’Neill told his special guest that there were “contesting views” on the Papuan issue. 

“We appreciate that there is a great deal of passion and emotion in these discussions. But it is a matter for which everyone deep down wants the same outcome – there to be peace, calm and understanding between PNG and the Papuan provinces.”

O’Neill said PNG would work with Indonesia to improve the lives and well-being of the Melanesian people in the Papuan provinces. “We are the Melanesian people in the sovereign countries of Papua New Guinea, of Indonesia, of the Solomon Islands, of Australia, of Vanuatu, of New Caledonia, and of Fiji – and Melanesian people in other countries like Malaysia and the Philippines. We want to work with all these countries to reduce tensions, but more importantly help our Melanesian brothers and sisters to build better lives for themselves,” he said.

O’Neill and Widodo sat down to some serious discussions yesterday morning.

Noting that 2015 will mark the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between PNG and Indonesia, the two leaders reaffirmed the traditionally friendly and cooperative relationship between their countries. They expressed their determination to play a leading role in ensuring stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region.

The two leaders agreed to increase cooperation in various economic sectors to increase trade beyond the border markers to strengthen cooperation in investment, and infrastructure development, as well as encourage the participation on private sector in energy, telecommunication, forestry, and fisheries.

They agreed to increase connectivity between their two countries and revealed that national airlines Garuda Indonesia and Air Niugini have agreed to code-share for Port Moresby-Denpasar-Jakarta and Port Moresby-Singapore-Jakarta routes.

Following their bilateral meeting, their respective ministers signed new memoranda of understanding (MOU) on cooperation in the vital areas of the development of petroleum and energy resources, and in the prevention and combating of trans-national crimes.

The first agreement, on preventing and combating trans-national crime, was signed by Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Retno L Marsudi and her PNG counterpart, Rimbink Pato.

The second agreement, on cooperation on human resources in petroleum and energy, was signed by Indonesia Minister for Energy and Mineral Resources Sudirman Said and Pato.

We commend O’Neill and Widodo for their successful summit, which is expected to reap real benefits for both countries.

In particular, the agreement on preventing and combating trans-national crime is timely and will go a long way to resolving crime and drug-related issues along the PNG-Indonesian border.

The stand taken by the two leaders on the Papua issue must be applauded.

For the first time, the two neighbours have expressed a strong desire to work hand-in-hand in resolving these niggling issues.

O’Neill is the first PNG Prime Minister to take a bold stand on this Papua issue and has been engaging in dialogue with “our friends in Indonesia” for some years.

PNG has agreed to endorse Indonesia’s associate membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG).